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Top 7 Time Management Tips for Writers

Originally written by Randy Crane and was posted on Brian W. Foster’s Blog

• Tip #1: Remove Something

We get so used to accepting overly-full schedules, living with the frustration, and forgetting the Opportunity Cost. Strategically remove something. If you feel like your time is out of control, if you feel bad that the people you care about are being neglected, or if important tasks “slip through the cracks” and are forgotten until it’s too late, then you’re already doing this with no strategy. Instead, choose what you will use your 24 hours today for. The only way to gain more of what you want to have in your life is to leave behind or take out what you don’t. If you want to write anything—a blog, a book, whatever—and you already have a full schedule, it will squeeze something out. Be intentional in advance on what that will be and how it’ll happen.

• Tip #2: Have a “Motivating Why”

I’ve recently begun training for a 5K race. When I decided to start this training program, something was different. This time, I had a goal—to run an actual 5K—and that goal fit in with other goals I have for myself and the Life Plan I developed. Now it’s not just an isolated, vaguely-defined, “I should do this” activity. It has a purpose. It accomplishes a goal that’s important to me. It’s an important part of my personal growth and development into the person I believe God wants me to be.When I wake up at 6:00 a.m. and don’t want to run I remind myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing, and this keeps me going for that morning. It’s my larger purpose behind the needed daily activity and discipline. It is my “Motivating Why.” If you’re a writer, there will be times where writing will be the hardest thing you can do, and you’ll want to not do it. During those times, your “Motivating Why” may be the only thing that gets the next words written.

• Tip #3: Prioritize

No look at time management/control strategies would be complete without talking about prioritizing. Even when we’ve removed as much as we think we can, when we understand we are the ones who choose how our time is used, and when we know why we are doing what we’re doing, we’re still likely to have a task list that can seem overwhelming. What do we do first? What can we push off or eliminate if we need to? What moves us forward and what moves us backward? Prioritizing is the strategy we use to answer those questions.But before you can prioritize, you need to have a framework to use, a filter that helps you get a true picture of the importance of each task. The framework I use is ACTION Goals. Set your goals, then prioritize your tasks based on them and the particular circumstances of the day.

• Tip #4: Recognize Your Choices

This one may be a bit hard to swallow, but stay with me. This strategy is simply to recognize that everything you do is a choice. That’s not to say that sometimes an outcome is so bad that it’s almost unthinkable, but it’s still an outcome, not the only one. Consider an extreme example.Do you have to eat? No, you don’t. You should. If you don’t you’ll end up in the hospital and you may die, but you still don’t actually have to eat. Hospitalization and/or death are overly negative outcomes, but the fact that the result of that action is negative doesn’t invalidate that it’s a choice.

• Tip #5: Minimize Interruptions

Always allowing distractions and interruptions is really saying, “Other people deserve to have more say in my life and what I do with it than I do. Their priorities are more important than mine.” If you don’t know what your priorities are or why they matter, then you really have no basis for thinking otherwise. But if you have goals, if you have a Motivating Why, and if you are intentional with your choices and priorities, then anyone else should only get to trump your schedule is if there is an actual, legitimate emergency, or if you choose to allow it. From my perspective as a Christian, if I know what God created me to do but instead of doing it I allow others to set my schedule and priorities through distractions and interruptions, then I’m saying that they know what I should do better than God does.

It’s easy to be interrupted as a writer, because to people who don’t do it, we look like we’re not doing much. You lose a lot of momentum and flow when you allow interruptions, though, so be very intentional about what you allow to interrupt you.

• Tip #6: Schedule Fun

Gaining control of your time isn’t all about schedules, tasks, work, work, work. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a well-known proverb for a reason. If you don’t allow time for fun, down time, even if just a few minutes a day, you’ll be so wound up and stressed that you’ll snap like an over-stretched rubber band. No matter how important what you’re doing is, there must be time for fun. Remember, even Jesus went to a party every now and then.

• Tip #7: Start with the Easiest, then the Hardest

When it comes to what order to do things in, conventional wisdom says to start with the most difficult task or the one you’re dreading the most and get it out of the way. If that works for you, great. It doesn’t work for me, and I know many others for whom it also doesn’t work. If we had to do the most difficult task first, we’d do nothing that day.

Make sure you build in early accomplishments in your day, but don’t neglect the important goals and tasks for the sake of ease. If you want to write a book this year, some days making progress on it it may be the easiest thing you have to do. Some days it may be the task you dread. Eventually you have to write, though, and do it consistently.

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